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Sybase PowerBuilder Case Study - Leeds Teaching Hospitals

Delivering dramatic results

The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is the largest trust in the UK. It provides acute services for the population of Leeds and is a regional center for the treatment of illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. The Trust employs more than 15,000 staff across eight sites and treats 125,000 inpatients, 65,000 day cases, and 700,000 outpatients each year. Its annual budget is more than £580 million.

"As you can imagine, the provision of supplies is crucial to this huge organization," explains Leeds information manager, Graham Medwell. "If we do not manage our procurement process efficiently and accurately, we could place patients' health at risk. To cut paperwork, increase efficiency, enforce contract compliance to realize the greatest discounts, and to provide management with accurate and timely information on procurement, we embarked on an 'e-commerce in action' project."

Prior to this project, Leeds' procurement environment was a tangle of inflexible, disconnected systems (some electronic, some manual), a vast number of suppliers, and centrally and locally negotiated contracts. In addition, Leeds had no catalog management capability. As a consequence, the procurement system was rife with problems. For instance:

  • There was no recording of local stock levels
  • The procurement process relied on paper requisitions that required manual approvals
  • Seventy percent of purchasing bypassed the supplies department
  • Thirty percent of purchasing was out of contract
  • There was a two-week cycle time between ordering and receipt of goods
  • Twenty-five percent of paper invoices were inaccurate
  • The cost of generating each order was £30
Thanks to Sybase technology, these and many other issues have been successfully addressed. The Trust is now realizing a number of dramatic benefits including cost savings of £2.8 million to date.

Key Requirements
After analyzing its existing procurement processes, Leeds determined it needed an eProcurement system based on a common item catalog that would work with its existing purchasing and finance systems - interfacing with them but not affecting their normal operational performance. Among the key requirements for this system were:

  • A simple, customizable, user-friendly interface
  • The ability to provide the necessary control of purchasing activities via tendering, contract compliance, and requisitioning
  • The ability to provide complete management information to all levels of the organization
  • Minimal system maintenance, freeing the Supplies Department staff to focus on getting the best contract prices for products and managing purchase authorizations
  • The capability to consolidate and share management information from multiple NHS Trusts for use by strategic health authorities (SHAs) and purchasing confederations
  • The capability to share and consolidate information from the different purchasing systems in use, without replacing them
Simply put, this meant the new system would have to provide a clean catalog, automatic checks on contract compliance, automatic electronic order status, electronic shipping notices and invoices, the ability to work with multiple Trusts and multiple purchasing systems, and mobile access for requisitioning.

Leeds' initial steps in its procurement reengineering project included the development of a catalog and a system to clean and maintain the catalogue data. The Supplies Department also developed a database, powered by Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise, to provide management with access to procurement information. It then developed modules, using Sybase PowerBuilder, to enable online requisitioning, ensure contract compliance, and manage its catalogue of a half a million items. The system also provides management information at all levels of the hierarchy from Trusts and Departments to SHAs and Confederations.

Leeds and Sybase Collaborate to Web-Enable eProcurement System
Building on this initial work, and in collaboration with Sybase Professional Services, Leeds expanded development to extend its eProcurement system to the wider Leeds Teaching Hospitals user community via the Web. This initiative led to the creation of SPNet.

"SPNet," explains Medwell, "is a total eProcurement, management information and purchasing control system that provides automatic contract compliance, extensive management information capabilities, a user-friendly Web-based requisitioning module, a Trust and Confederation view of expenditures at all levels; integration of current systems; mobile functionality; an interface to tendering packages for contract generation; and eTrading via XML, e-mail and autofax options.

"We looked at a number of potential partners to commercially develop our in-house system," Medwell adds. "The objectives of the partnership were to have greater reliability and move to a scalable e-portal solution that would not only link our legacy systems within the Trust, but also link multiple hospitals within a purchasing confederation or hub. Our decision to partner with Sybase was based on the company's 20-year track record of technology innovation, its commitment to open architecture solutions that provide the data management and mobility necessary for today's unwired society, and Sybase's extensive healthcare IT experience."

SPNet Architecture Built with Sybase Technology
The SPNet eProcurement architecture delivers a fully integrated and personalized user interface. The solution gives multi-organization support from SHAs and Confederations to Trusts, sites, and departments. Figure 1 provides a functional schematic of SPNet.

The specific Sybase technologies used to create SPNet include Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise, Sybase Enteprise Portal, Appeon for PowerBuilder, Sybase EAServer, and e-Biz Impact.

From a technical perspective, SPNet is Web-based with XML support and integration to and from legacy systems via Sybase's integration architecture as shown in Figure 2.

"Using SPNet, we can now roll out electronic requisitioning across the Trust using browser-based technology," says Medwell. "In addition to rolling out SPNet reporting to budget holders, we are currently looking at how to make best use of the extra facilities the new system offers to link procurement to clinical legacy systems."

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